Toby Rich, the president of Prince George's County Educators Association, leaned back in his chair during last week's school board meeting and explained that a climate of trust now existed between teachers, the new board and the county executive.
Rich said there would be no county teacher's strike this year - as was threatened the year before - because "communication" now existed between the teachers, the board and the county executive.
It was less than an hour later that Rich angrily stormed from his seat to a podium and accused the board of "trying to get out of what you agreed to."
The issue that prompted Rich's anger was a dental plan for teachers that has been accepted by the board and was included in the teachers' contract.
The dental plan, slated for this year, which Rich says "would not have cost the school board one red cent," was postponed in executive session by the board.
Through a formal statement by Jesse J. Warr Jr., board chairman, the board told county teachers that the board did not have enough money in hand to implement the dental plan.
The original plan approved by the teachers enabled the board to reduce payment for health benefits for newly hired employees so the board could bank that surplus and then use it for the dental plan. Teachers also agreed to deduct additional payments from their salaries in order to make the dental plan work.
Progress on implementation of the plan had seemed to be building since the initial agreement was signed, until last Thursday, when the board issued the statement through Warr: ". . . I am afraid that any statements pertaining to the board's intention to immediately implement a dental plan must be considered to have been made in haste."
The statement itself was not that objectionable to the president of the teachers' association, because he has already begun manuevers to create the dental plan by working within the board's new guidelines.
It was the way the decision was made and the logic used to make it that angered Rich.
Before the board met in executive session that night, Rich had sent a letter to the board urging a meeting to work out problems in the dental plan agreement. The board ignored the letter, met and decided not to go with the plan because the board "did not want to go shopping for a dental plan without having the money first," said a school spokesman.
Additionally, the board stated that "no insurance company had been found that would operate the plan for $38,000.
Rich contended that such a company had been found and that the board had already collected $38,000 from last year and now had collected half of the projected $54,000 estimated to be collected this year. Rich also said teachers, through the agreement with the board, were also going to contribute additional money through deductions. Rich said with that money alone, a plan could be financed through this year.
"This was not new to the board," said Rich, who said the board staff along with teachers had helped develop the figures.
According to Warr, some of the information concerning the plan had not been translated to the board from Supt. Edward J. Feeney, who met with Rich. "Rich had talked to Feeney, but the board did not know what had been said," Warr stated. According to Warr, the board did not know that the teachers had found a carrier, or that the plan could be operated on a monthly basis.
"We do not object to the plan. However they want to do it is okay as long as the money will be accrued. All we are committed to do is carry out our committment to the contract," Warr said.
Finally, Warr explained what the board went into executive session without meeting with Rich because, "Both Fenney and I had talked to Rich and we wanted to meet with the board. We could not commit ourselves to the plan until we got a consensus of the board."